Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.
Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.
Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.
We’re tracking all things Purple, starting with what’s already happened and projecting what needs to happen as the Vikings work their way through free agency and the rest of the offseason.
We’re finally here. The final preseason game is upon us and real football is around the corner. But until the season opener against the Rams, the Vikings have their final exhibition game against the Titans on Thursday.
The big names and most of the starters likely won’t play, which will probably steer away the casual Vikings fan. Nevertheless, this game is important. It’ll be head coach Mike Zimmer’s last opportunity to evaluate his team before the Vikings trim the roster from 75 to 53 by Saturday at 3 p.m. CT. With that said, here’s three things to watch:
1. HOW MUCH WILL TEDDY PLAY? There’s a “good chance” rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will start, according to Zimmer. The quarterback competition was settled this week with Matt Cassel named as the starter, but this is still a good opportunity for Bridgewater. It’d be his first chance to start, and the last time Bridgewater will face another opponent for the foreseeable future. It’s unknown how much Bridgewater will play and when quarterback Christian Ponder will enter the game, but Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner would like to see the rookie wrap up a solid preseason against the Titans on a high note.
2. WHICH CORNERBACKS WILL START? A veteran like cornerback Captain Munnerlyn probably won’t play, but will Zimmer want to give Xavier Rhodes another game to get comfortable with the new scheme before the regular season? He made a few good plays against the Chiefs last week and will need to take that next step in his second season with the questionable depth at cornerback. Also, keep an eye on Josh Robinson and Shaun Prater, who had an interception against the Chiefs, and how much they’ll play against the Titans.
3. WHO WILL STAND OUT ON SPECIAL TEAMS? There’s a lot of pressure on some of players on the bubble to perform well one last time to make the 53-man roster. Keep an eye on who starts on the return and coverage teams on kickoffs and punts. The final guys vouching for a roster spot will likely make their biggest impact on special teams during the regular season and will be used accordingly in the final preseason game.
|Baltimore - WP: T. Wilson||10||FINAL|
|NY Yankees - LP: S. Baker||2|
|Colorado||4||Bottom 7th Inning|
|Oakland||10||Top 9th Inning|
|Kansas City||8||Bottom 7th Inning|
|Atlanta||16||1st Qtr 3:10|
|New York||7:00 PM|
|Golden State||7:30 PM|
|Oklahoma City||8:00 PM|
|New Jersey||0||1st Prd 9:27|
|Florida||0||1st Prd 13:31|
|Ottawa||0||1st Prd 12:50|
|Los Angeles||7:00 PM|
|Arizona||34||2nd Half 17:09|
|Notre Dame||7:49 PM|
|Los Angeles||0||1st Half 28:00|
|Sporting Kansas City||1||1st Half 29:00|
|New York City||0|
|Red Bull New York||6:30 PM|
|Gonzaga||18||1st Half 10:40|